I was rev'd up and ready to go to Biketoberfest, with an itch for demo rides. I had a list of bikes I wanted to
test ride, shown in the table.
We had planned to leave Wednesday evening and stop for the night in SC. I had ended up with a reservation for Wednesday night in Daytona Beach. A customer had requested a last minute day of my time, but cancelled at the last moment. So, we decided to cancel the SC reservation, get a way a little early on Wednesday and ride all the way to Daytona stopping only for gas.
It was a simple plan. And all went well until somewhere in Georgia. Jeff had felt his chain slipping and did an impromptu tightening at a gas stop. We blasted back out onto the interstate. After about a half hour I realized Jeff had fallen back in traffic a little, only slightly less out of character than Charleton Heston attending a fund raiser for Hillary Clinton. We pulled over at the next exit and took another shot at the chain. It was slipping again.
That, my friends, is very unhappy sprocket and chain. Closer inspection found that wheel had been misaligned and the teeth of the sprocket were worn down about half way with an asymmetric wave shape characteristic of a sprocket about to leave you out in the middle of nowhere. Even worse the clip was missing from the master link. After fitting a spare clip and lacking a replacement sprocket we tightened the chain "too tight" to limit slipping and headed out for 240 more miles to Daytona. After about 130 to Jacksonville we filled up with gas and checked the chain and sprocket. Looked about the same, so we began the last leg to Daytona Beach. We arrived bleary eyed at 2:30 AM, glad that the room was on the first floor 20 feet from the front desk.
The heated grips I had installed the previous weekend worked like gang-busters. They felt so good I kept them on high. I was to awake to two blisters that had been formed through my Tourmaster insulated Cordura gloves. Need to use low next time after they heat up.
THUWe slept in late and awoke to this view out the sliding glass door. Our hotel was on the beach just south of Daytona Beach, in Daytona Beach Shores. Ocean front with a fridge (and I now realize, underground parking -- Doh!) for $59 a night. Remember that early bird/worm thing? I made reservations a long time ago. Others coughed up $ 175 a night for the same rooms.
Jeff began the process of locating a new chain and sprocket, calling local shops first and ending up with Sidewinder on the phone, who needed a call back later to confirm the part numbers(?!). Off we went to the Track on International Speedway Blvd. First stop, the Kawasaki tent. We signed in as GTOC members and availed ourselves of the free donuts and coffee while signing up for 11:00am rides the next day (both GTOC perks ). After securing the next day's rides we signed up for a 2:20pm ride for later in the afternoon and headed out to check out the other manufacturers. We did not get far before we almost ran into Kawasaki's new ZX10R on display. What a tiny bike. like the competition, smaller and more powerful is the order of the day.
|Heading toward the parking lot to ride over to the American cruiser side of the speedway we got a chance to check out some of the bikes ridden to the event. You see some of everything here. I never fancied a BMW K-trike, but the Transalp always appealed to me. We got a chance to chat with the Transalp owner about his home-made aluminum panniers as he checked out Jeff's ragged chain and sprocket.|
|At the HD lot early signups are not required. I got into line and snagged the new HD 1200 Sportster custom. What difference rubber mounting makes. The engine feels more torquey and rev's higher (6000RPM) and the forward controls are not as forward as I thought. I had fun riding the bike and was surpised at how immediate and strong the torque is. I caught this long distance snap on the right of Jeff pulling away on the 1200 Custom. The Sportster feels really small and I was surprised at how the forward controls did not feel that far away. I liked the 1200 Sportster.|
|After the riding the new Sportster we made our way gradually over toward Beull, determined to sample that engine in a different chassis. We checked out displays along the way. I got to sit on a Tiger, but Triumph was not offering demo rides at Biketoberfest. Nor was Milwaukee Iron, but their square old- school bikes were drawing some attention. Jeff also got to try out the seat on a new age electric scooter! You can tell by the look on his face just being near such a quiet, fuel efficient machine was giving him goose bumps!|
|Our turn come up at the Beull tent and we headed out on XB12S's. Damn that's a small bike. Having ridden the 9R last year, the 12S did not feel any more relaxed. Great torque, good acceleration. Good brakes. The bike tipped into corners well but needed more effort to keep turning. I thought the fat torque curve produced the most effortless acceleration I had felt. More on this later. It was back to Kawasaki's hospitality for precious hydrating fluids and some snacks. Demo riding is hard work. Having ascertained that Dennis Kirk had the sprocket and chain in stock and had no trouble with the part numbers, Jeff called Sidewinder back and cancelled his order.|
|After our Sportster rides we had perused the offering from Polaris at the Victory tent. That Vegas is a sharp looking bike, much more appealing to me than the frumpy and square looking V92, now festooned with bags and dubbed the "TC", or Touring Cruiser. We had managed to find slots on a 3:30 demo ride aboard the Vegas and Kingping cruisers. I rode the Vegas. What a great engine. Lots of torque and lots of over-rev. where the HD 1200 had signed off at 6000 RPM (up from 5500 last year) the Vegas went all the way to 7000. The Vegas also has some great brakes. I found myself following more closely on the Vegas than I was accustomed to on the the KLR with my newfound braking confidence. I only managed to drag one footpeg on a ride that encompassed what are probable the only three curves within ten miles of the speedway. I found the Vegas to be good handling, easy to ride, and very comfortable. I could see riding this thing all day. The Vegas was my cruiser of choice.|
|Next stop was the Boot Hill Saloon, where a Mad Max emulating ice carver was hard at work with his chain saw. In addition to chain saw man I saw a number of interesting t-shirts. There's something for everyone, guys and gals alike.|
|Main street was sort of passť this year, normal bikes strutting along side the typical "tank-high" customs. Not a lot of interesting characters around this evening either. One off duty (or perhaps retired) cop was showing off his Deputy Dog and Taz tattoos. woohoo. We found some interesting small bikes down main, you can see Jeff dwarfing them in the photo below. There seemed to be a lot of lawn mower engine cruisers around that evening, perhaps the pocket bike racing craze is bleeding over into the cruiser market. We got a chance to see big Paul, of Orange County Choppers, exiting his trailer looking pissed off. And little Paul drove out of the parking lot as we snapped the photos below of the bikes we've seen them building on television.|
|A quick walk back down Main toward the church were genteel ladies had collected $3 for bike parking provided us with photo ops for swim suit models as well as early Halloween skeletons. It had been a full day and a short night, so we headed back to the hotel to raid the snack machine and crash.|
FRIWe arrived at the speedway earlier to sign up for rides and Jeff nailed the FJR1300 he was looking for, and I managed a ride on the Moto Guzzi Breva 750, while Jeff chose the 1100 Cafe Sport. I liked the Breva. A lot. This may be the perfect beginners bike. What the Blast! should have been. A bike easy enough to learn on but substantial enough to last you a few years. Comfortable. Low maintenance shaft drive. This is close to the perfect sport touring position for me. The dry clutch was a smidge grabby to me, I stalled it once. Once I found the friction zone the bike was so easy to ride. Great brakes. 401 lbs dry. Even with the nearly square edged Battleax BT-45 tires the Breva seemed to tip into corners pretty easily, at a more even rate than the Beull.
Shame about the engine. The 750 v-twin revs with the alacrity of the diesel powerplant in a WWII sub, even under no load in neutral. Of course I'm exaggerating, but this thing rev's very slowly. It must have a massive flywheel. That aids the torquey feeling of the motor and lends to the enjoyably relaxed nature of the bike. The flat torque curve pulled willingly from 1500 in top gear, which is good, because there is significant transmission whine in 3rd gear -- enough that I would avoid being in third for more than a few seconds. I was hoping for enough power for short tours two-up. Not here. A quick check of the Guzzi web site claims 48 hp.
At the crank. Geez, Yamaha's new XT600 single makes that at the same RPM. Come on. And 43lb ft or torque is not
getting it done. I loved everything else about the Breva -- the look, the feel, the easy way it tips in and holds
a line, easy clutch pull, no drive line lash -- I just need more get up and go than that. I was hoping the 1100
Breva would be more to my liking but an internet search turns up a dry weight of 513 lbs. Phhhhh.
A trip over to Suzuki for a ride on the SV650 (me) and the SV1000S (Jeff) confirmed my impressions that the Brva rev's slowly. The SV650 rev's much faster. That translates into acceleration, which the SV650 has in spades. I really like this engine. shame about the seating position. This is the most uncomfortable bike I've ridden since the ZX12R last year. The seat is narrow to bear my weight and the riding position is cramped for a six footer. Great engine, brakes and handling. If I could just get this engine in the Breva. Jeff seemed to be as uncomfortable on the SV1000S as I was on the naked 650. He said it was worse for him than a gixxer. wow.
|We headed back over to Victory to attempt another ride on the Vegas, and to score another free Victory t-shirt. Did I forget to mention that? Anyway, we struck out on the afternoon demo rides. On our way out we met a couple proudly hanging out near their DR350S's. They were kitted out with plastic screens, 3 bag Givi mounts, Russell Day -Long saddles and sporting 45K and 35k miles. That's a lot of road miles on a 350 dual sport.|
|We headed back to the hotel to pick up Jeff's package he had prepared the front desk to receive and starting tearing the KLR down in the parking lot. Check out the wear on the side of the sprocket teeth! It is no wonder the teeth were wearing down quickly. The sprocket and new chain went on easily, and we took a break to catch a quick nap before dinner. Soon we were back on our way.|
We headed down to Edgewater to grab a $5.99 T-bone with all the trimmings. The No Name Saloon is a very
interesting place. While waiting for our steaks we were treated to some "nuclear" hot wings by some folks whose
table we shared. Between the wings and the steaks a painted woman sidled up to the table and declared "I'm Granny
Bell". She stepped up to Jeff and posed for a picture. I snapped that shot quickly and mercifully the moment
Parked in the rear lot of the No Name was a trailer housing an HD bike collection. A couple old school bikes and a couple of V-8 drage race bikes. One of the cruisers was an old Daytona Beach Fire Department bike. Very cool.
SATWe headed back down to the speedway for more rides. This time I was signed up for the Aprilia Capo Nord, and big adventure tourer. The first thing I noticed is that you sit in the Capo Nord, not on it. The seat is very deeply dished. Although it was comfortable it felt a little confining. The fairing is large and should block a lot of wind and the elements. The motor is a rever, not as torquey down low as the V- Strom (1000). But it was pretty fast. Once into the ride the guy ahead of me on a Mille rode a wheelie away from every stop, but I was able to keep right on his butt with the Capo Nord. The front end stays planted unless you try to lift it so you can take off hard without worrying. The bike was comfortable for me and I think I would enjoy touring on it but I would not feel confident immediately hitting a dirt or gravel road with it.
I got to try another ride on the green Z1000, having sampled one during Bike Week in March. What a great bike. This would be my sport bike of choice. Blisteringly fast, easy to ride, and comfortable. I found no fault with the Z1000. I felt like I could ride it for hours. We saw a nice Givi windscreen extension someone had added to private Z1000 in the parking lot. Hmmm. With the windscreen, an aftermarket saddle, some side bags ...
Next up was the Yamaha Warrior. I was excited to ride this bike and eager to compare it to the Victory Vegas from
the day before and the Mean Streak I was hoping to ride later. The Warrior has a very upright seating position
with the seat to peg distance feeling tighter than it really is. And the tank seems about two feet wide between
your knees. I found it less comfortable than the Vegas. The seat was not as supportive either and the log reach
to the bars just wasn't relaxed enough for me. The motor is all torque. It feels like it could snatch your arms
out of the sockets. But you hit the rev limiter just over 5000 RPM. Acceleratis interruptus. You have to really
short shift it to keep some acceleration going. The ride leader accelerated at a '62 Rambler pace, so the only
good takeoff I got was when half the pack was stopped by a stop light. I grabbed a handful of throttle and eased
the clutch out and when I looked down at the top of first gear I was going 55mph. The fastest accelerating cruiser
I have ridden. I did not get much of a chance to test the handling, we did not cover the curves Kawasaki, Moto
Guzzi and some of the others lead us through on their demo rides. But I did drag a peg on a right hand turn, going
25-30. I thought it handled pretty well for a bike that big.
We headed back down to Edgewater for more beef at the No Name and finished out the evening listening to a band at the Cabbage Patch.
SUNSun was an unexpected treat. We had learned on Saturday that demo rides would be offered on Sunday. Good deal! We were already signed up for rides at Kawasaki so we basically just sat around there and took 2 or 3 more test rides.
The Kawasaki Vulcan 1600 Mean Streak is a really nice bike. The increase from 1500 to 1600CC is said to have left the horsepower the same but dramatically increased the torque lower in the rev range while dropping the rev limit 200 RPM. Good tradeoff. It did not have the arm wrenching torque of the Warrior but the rev limiter did not kick in until about 6300RPM. And it was more comfortable for me than the Warrior. Good acceleration. Great comfort. Easy to turn and hang off the bike. We did not get over 60-65 but a few curves at that speed had me grinning. At several thousand dollars less than the Vegas, I would choose the Mean Streak if spending my money.
I got another ride on the ZRX as well. What rocket. That engine is incredible. This would make a good two up short tour bike, and all rounder. While a little heavier than I want in a bike it really carries the weight well, making it easy to ride.
The ZZR1200 is a big bike. Great engine. Uncomfortable for me. Too much weight on the bars and too cramped seating position. I thought the Z1000 was much more comfortable and I'd rather tour on the Z1000. But the bigg ZZR was very easy to handle and I though it was a very nice big heavy sport bike. And did I mention fast?
As a Dallas Cowboys fan I've had to cherish every win they've had (only 15) over the last 3 seasons. They are having a good year. So I wanted to find a sports bar and watch the Dallas vs. Detroit game. After a couple of tries we ended up at the Ale House on Speedway Blvd. I gnawed down a burger while Dallas built a 28-7 lead in the first half, while Jeff finished out the half napping on the KLR in the parking lot. Just after half time we blasted out, a little after 3:00pm. We made great time heading up I-95 to Raleigh. Even with 3 gas stops I entered my apartment just after 11:00pm. About 580 miles in 8 hrs, which I earlier in the morning had assured Jeff could not be done. Live and Learn.
It was a fun trip. Once again Kawasaki proved to the the class of the manufacturers. Kawasaki had the curviest test ride route (shared by Guzzi, Harley and some others) and offered tables, chairs, coffee, and water to all visitors and free snacks and drinks and private parking to GTOC members. Of the big 4 Japanese firms, only Kawasaki brought their entire street line to the show (no dual sport demo rides), while Honda only brought the VTX and the Goldwing. Yamaha brought standards and cruisers only. Kudos to MotoGuzzi and Aprilia for bringing what was probably their entire lines for demo rides, as well as (Polaris) Victory and Harley Davidson. Triumph had displays only -- no demo rides, and Ducati and BMW blew us off completely. And when am I going to get to see, much less ride, an ATK?
I hope to see your there next year!